New Year Wishes for 2017 and Beyond

December 31, 2016

May you walk immersed in fields of wildflowers; barefoot in teeming creeks; awed along ridge-tops with endless horizons.  May you climb welcoming trees and savor ripe fruit from their branches.

May you feel the fair breeze caress your skin, hear its voice and understand its language.

May you revel in rich damp soil and smell the ‘green’ of fresh snap peas and the ‘red’ of perfect tomatoes in the garden.

May you laugh often and deeply hand in hand with those you love as you explore Nature together.

Love and starlight to you ~ now and always,
Deb and Harry
Your Grandparents of the Forest

Deb, Harry, bee balmNature enthusiasts Harry LeBlanc and Deb Vail are at home in the forest hiking to reach beautiful vistas and searching for native plants in the southern Appalachians. They are co-founders of Grandparents of the Forest, an intimate business offering simple yet meaningful ways for children and their parents to connect to Nature for well-being and healing. They also make Sacred Forest® Flower Essences from the plants they encounter. They are former organic farmers and parents of 5 grown children.

Organized under Uncategorized. No comments.

Plant Now for Flowers Next Year!

November 9, 2016

Contributed by HarryHarry closeup glasses

As the weather cools down, you may find yourself dreaming of NEXT year’s flower bouquets.

bouquet_june_486Now is the time to prepare for at least some of your future garden, because many plants, usually biennials (plants that have a two year life cycle), need a period of cold before they will bloom.

larkspur-row-farmagrostemma-farmPlants like Agrostemma (corn cockles), Bupleurum, bachelor buttons, larkspur, Nigella, Saponaria (soapwort), Scabiosa (pincushion flower) that bloom in early spring can be planted now by direct seed. (Though it may be too late in some areas –check with your local cooperative extension office.) Follow the directions provided on the seed packet or catalog for soil depth and exact timing (larkspur, for example won’t germinate if the soil is too warm).

snap-dark-pink-farm

Other biennials/perennials, like foxglove, Echinacea, snapdragons, lupine and Rudbeckia (black-eyed Susan), Dianthus (sweet William) and others should have been started as seed back in mid- to late summer, but if you can find starts (young plants) at your local nursery, now is the time to get them in.foxglove-farm-perennial-bed

 

Yet other flowers like cosmos, zinnia, sunflowers and many more are annuals and are planted in spring.  So dream on and make your plans for them in patience.

 

 

august-flower-fieldOr, if you would rather have Nature do your gardening for you in a ‘wilder’ setting, there are some native wildflowers with which you can assist.

cardinal-flowerI am having a hard time thinking of a brighter red naturally occurring in wild Nature than a Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis) other than its namesake, a mature male Cardinal himself. The North American native Cardinal Flower grows in USDA Hardiness Zones 3 through 9 in wet, poorly drained places, though they also grow in drier conditions. (Cornell University claims they may survive even in Zone 2!)

Cardinal Flower prefers full sun in cooler climates but needs part shade in the warmer part of its range. (They are very happy in the middle of our wet Zone 6 mountain meadow.)

To have your own intensely red insect attractant, collect the seed when the seed heads have matured (or purchase from a reputable seed source) and scatter the tiny seeds where you want them to establish. (Where you can easily see them, of course!) Scatter these seeds in late fall soon after they ripen or through early Spring since they also need to be “stratified” by cold to germinate. Do not cover them because, as with most tiny seeds, they need light to germinate.

Since Cardinal Flower is a short-lived perennial, let the plants reseed (which they should do naturally) to maintain the population.

joe-pye-yellow-swallowtailThe tall pink-lavender topped Joe-Pye Weed (there are several Eutrochium species) with its whorled leaves is native to Zones 4 through 9. Growing and germinating conditions for Joe-Pye Weed are similar to Cardinal Flower. You might want to plant these as more of a ‘backdrop’ since these plants can get quite tall.

 

great-blue-lobelia-fieldAnd Great Blue Lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica) is also native to Zones 2 through 9, from the Atlantic coast to the Rocky Mountains and blooms in late summer with the other two flowers above. Growing and germinating conditions are the same as above for this beautiful, though somewhat shorter, plant.

These three plants bloom in late summer (late July to  early September around here) when the bees need to be collecting nectar for winter honey stores and before the later Asters and Goldenrod begin blooming.

 

Get out there and beautify the future!

Deb, Harry, bee balmNature enthusiasts Harry LeBlanc and Deb Vail are at home in the forest hiking to reach beautiful vistas and searching for native plants in the southern Appalachians. They are co-founders of Grandparents of the Forest, an intimate business offering simple yet meaningful ways for children and their parents to connect to Nature for well-being and healing. They also make Sacred Forest® Flower Essences from the plants they encounter. They are former organic farmers and parents of 5 grown children.

Organized under Gardening, Harry, Spring, Summer, Winter. No comments.

Crawfishing

September 23, 2016

Contributed by HarryHarry closeup glasses

crawfish

Yesterday, I was scooping water from our little stream to water in some transplants and caught this little critter.  It brought back many memories.

 

In Louisiana, there are hunting seasons, fishing seasons and seasons for harvesting the various indigenous shellfish: shrimp, oysters, crabs and crawfish. You may know these crustaceans as “crayfish” or “crawdads” or “mudbugs”, but I grew up calling them “crawfish”.

There are several ways to crawfish (verb).

I remember going out at night with my parents and grandparents collecting crawfish as they traveled from their burrows to who knows where… maybe to visit their girlfriends. Their burrows where easy to spot: the crawfish would build a ‘chimney’ around the entrance to the hole with little balls of mud. I have seen crawfish chimneys several inches tall.

Each person had a pail and a light: either a flashlight, or headlamp or white-gas lantern. We roamed around a field near a swamp searching for the crustaceans. When we found one, we would step gently on its head and pick it up by its tail. You pinned its head with your foot so it would not pinch your fingers with its big claws that it waved around in self-defense.

 

Another memory came to me that I cannot shake.  It involves another way to catch crawfish.

When I was very young, maybe 4 or 5 years old, my Dad took me crawfishing across the river. That would be the west bank of the Mississippi River.

You can catch crawfish in a special net or trap. The net we used was a cotton net (My paternal Grandpa could make these nets! It may be a lost art now.) suspended between two pieces of stiff wire bent to form the top four sides of a pyramid with the net being the bottom of the pyramid. The net-bottomed pyramid is placed in water about 12 to 18 inches deep so that the top of the wire pyramid is visible above the water surface. You usually tie a piece of brightly colored cloth to the top so the net is easy to spot as you ‘run your line’. I can still see the bright dark red strips of cloth identifying our traps.

Now, crawfish are freshwater, bottom-dwelling scavengers. They particularly like chicken necks. So most people tie a piece of chicken neck in the center of the net to attract the critters.

If you ‘fish’ from a bank you use a long pole with a hook – sometimes just a nail or screw put into the side of one end – to reach out, quietly move the end of the pole under the apex of the pyramid, quickly lift it out of the water, swing it over a tub or bucket to dump your catch. You have to do this quickly since the net has no sides and the crawfish will swim or scuttle out – backwards, as that is how they move – if you are too slow.

 

Well, this particular crawfishing trip I remember so vividly, was to a pond – or swamp – that didn’t have a shore we could walk along.

Dad had 20 or 30 traps (maybe more or less – it was a long time ago and I was little so everything is probably remembered much bigger than it really was). The two wires that held the net were attached at the apex in such a way they that they sprung apart when the net was flipped once or twice.

All the traps were opened and set out like rows of ghost tents as Dad tied the bait in the center of each net.

Then came the part I remember best.

I climbed on my Dad’s back with my arms around his neck and my legs around his waist as he waded out into the pond and set each trap in a big circle in the water.

When we got back to the start we waited. I don’t remember how long, for a child that young, it was probably interminable. Then I climbed back on Dad’s back and he walked s-l-o-w-l-y around the pond from trap to trap with a pole in one hand and a galvanized washtub floating beside us. You know:  the kind of tub you fill with ice to chill watermelon on a hot summer day, or wash your dog in.

He moved slowly to not scare the crawfish away from their short feast in our nets. In one smooth motion, he would reach out with the pole lift the trap, let is slide down the pole, over the tub and then tip our prey out. He would pick out the under-sized ones and toss them back… probably to be caught several more times before the day was over.

This had to have been a difficult and amazing feat to perform with a small child half strangling him and in such a way as to not dump said clinging cargo into the water. You know, it’s possible I rode on Dad’s shoulders straddling his neck, but that is not the memory that sticks.

We went around and around the pond, me encumbering him, until the tub was full enough for a big dinner for the whole family.

 

Let me tell you, a shellfish dinner in Louisiana (maybe other places, too, but I grew up there and not elsewhere) is quite an affair:

Huge pots of water are brought to a boil and special Cajun seafood spices are added then the entrée are dumped in and cooked. This works for crawfish, crabs or shrimp… and we are usually talking a bushel or two of food at a time!

In the meantime, the dining table is covered in several layers of newspaper.

When the seafood is done cooking – not more than a very few minutes – it is extracted from the pot and dumped into the middle of the table in a huge pile. Shells and other inedible parts are placed onto separate dishes or special metal platters.

When the last crawfish is consumed or peeled and set aside – because it is seldom the case that it is all eaten – to go into a later gumbo or jambalaya, the whole multilayer newspaper table covering is folded and rolled into one big bundle and put in the trash.

 

You don’t have to carry your child into the swamps to strongly imprint lasting memories of the outdoors. There are plenty of other adventures awaiting for you and them.  What wonderful memories can you create with your child?

 

Deb, Harry, bee balmNature enthusiasts Harry LeBlanc and Deb Vail are at home in the forest hiking to reach beautiful vistas and searching for native plants in the southern Appalachians. They are co-founders of Grandparents of the Forest, an intimate business offering simple yet meaningful ways for children and their parents to connect to Nature for well-being and healing. They also make Sacred Forest® Flower Essences from the plants they encounter. They are former organic farmers and parents of 5 grown children.

Organized under Amphibians, Harry. No comments.

The Growing Season Ends

September 13, 2016

Contributed by HarryHarry closeup glasses

Hopefully, you have had a successful garden this year and, literally, enjoyed the fruits of your labor.

If you have followed our Gardening with Children Guide, you will soon be finishing this year’s activities and harvesting the last veggies and enjoying and cutting the last flowers.

What now?

If your plants have finished producing, it is time to pull them out.   “Finished producing” means the plants are dead or dying or all the fruit is harvested and no more flowers are appearing promising more fruit. If they are healthy, you can put them in your compost.  If they are infested with pests or disease, it is best to remove them by putting them in a plastic bag, tying it closed and disposing of it.  If you don’t pull this year’s dead plants out, they may set and shed seed.  This is not a problem, but if you want to ‘rotate your crops’ you may have to deal with ‘weeds’ next year.

I tend to have dill and cilantro all over my garden every year.  A random marigold is a whimsical addition (and some marigolds deter nematodes).  This may be a blessing, not a problem, but some larger plants, like tomatoes and kale might end up crowding out the things you plant next year if left to their own devices.

open-bean-pods-gotfIf you intentionally let some of your crops go to seed, like the dill, cilantro, beans, calendula, sunflowers, etc. (see our Facebook posts on the subject), it should be about time to collect those seeds if you have not already.  Once the seeds are collected you can pull out the plants and add them to the compost.

We assume you have been weeding your garden, whether in the ground or in containers, all through the growing season to cut down on competition from ‘weeds’ for precious nutrients and water.  Even though your garden is finishing up, you should pull out and remove all ‘weeds’ that may have escaped notice.  If they are flowering or have seeds on them you should not put them in your compost.  Compost needs to get pretty hot to kill seeds.

 

“Nature abhors a vacuum.”  That means if some thing is not growing in a space, some other thing will arrive to fill it.  So bare soil will invite seeds blown or dropped in to germinate and root.

You can prevent this in a couple of different ways:

If you are growing in containers and they are small enough to easily move, put them some place where they are not exposed to rain and light.  Any weed seeds will be less likely to germinate over winter.

If you are growing in the ground you can:

1) Mulch the soil with three or four inches of grass clippings, shredded leaves, wood chips, straw, etc.  This will protect the soil from erosion and compaction.  It will protect the bacteria, earthworms and other denizens of the soil from the harsh extremes of winter.  It will also deny weed seeds light so any seeds that do germinate will die due to lack of light.  Those that do make it through the mulch will be easy to remove.  And as the mulch decomposes, it will add nutrients to the soil.

2) Grow a ‘cover crop’ like crimson clover, rye grain (not rye grass) or mustard.  This will do several things.  It will prevent erosion and compaction.  It will maintain the soil microbiology through winter.  And a legume like crimson clover will add Nitrogen to the soil; rye is “allelopathic” meaning it prevents other plants from growing, so it is a natural weed prevention; mustards kill or suppress diseases and pests.  (Many farmers plant all three for maximum over-winter benefit!  We used to do that on our farm.)  In the spring, you can either cut these to put them in your compost or chop them up (mow them down) and turn them into the soil to break down and add more organic matter to the soil.  If you do grow rye as a winter cover and turn it into your soil, wait two weeks before growing.  The allelopathy will dissipate by then.

3) If you are in a Hardiness Zone which is not too extreme, you can grow a cold tolerant crop into the winter!  If you start your winter crop early enough (now or earlier, depending on the crop and your location), you can be eating kale, carrots, beets, parsley, spinach, collards, lettuce, etc. for quite a while, maybe all the way to spring!  In our Zone 7 farm, we fed customers 10 months a year and ate from our fields all year round!

onionsIf you like garlic or onions and have the room, now is the time to plant some so it will be ready next year.  The onions in the photo at left are bunching onions.  We will pull them through the winter to add to recipes.  Notice the straw mulch to keep down weeds.

 

[If your containers are large or immobile, you can do these things to them also!]

 

Also, if you grow in the ground, now is a good time to have your soil tested.  If needed, agricultural lime applied now will have time to “sweeten” the soil for your next year’s garden.  The results of a soil test will tell you how much to use.

So, a little flurry of activity now as autumn advances will help give you a head start on spring – or you can continue enjoying produce for a while yet.

We hope this helps you continue to enjoy your garden and Nature.  Remember to explain to your young helpers what and why you are doing.  Don’t let good ‘teaching moments’ escape.

Deb, Harry, bee balmNature enthusiasts Harry LeBlanc and Deb Vail are at home in the forest hiking to reach beautiful vistas and searching for native plants in the southern Appalachians. They are co-founders of Grandparents of the Forest, an intimate business offering simple yet meaningful ways for children and their parents to connect to Nature for well-being and healing. They also make Sacred Forest® Flower Essences from the plants they encounter. They are former organic farmers and parents of 5 grown children.

Organized under Autumn, Gardening, Harry. No comments.

Good Plants to Know, Part 1

September 7, 2016

Contributed by HarryHarry closeup glasses

When out and about, whether in the ‘wild’ or wandering through ‘civilization’, there are several plants useful to be able to recognize.

 

The first is Plantain. This common weed came with the European colonists and is everywhere.

Narrow-leaf Plantain

Narrow-Leaf Plantain

Wide-leaf Plantain

Wide-leaf Plantain

There are two species: Narrow-leaf (Plantago lanceolata) and Wide-leaf (Plantago major). They both work equally well. This is a good plant to be able to recognize when you get stung by an insect.

Pick a couple of leaves, chew them up and apply the chewed pulp to the bite. The saliva is important in activating the healing.

 

The next plant it would help to know is Jewelweed or Wild Touch-Me-Not. Its second name comes from the explosive way the fruit shatters to spread its seeds.

There are two species of this plant also: Spotted (Impatiens capensis), with orange flowers and Pale (Impatiens pallida) with pale yellow flowers. Both species get their more common name, Jewelweed, from the silvery shimmer a leaf submerged in water displays.

Spotted Jewelweed

Spotted Jewelweed

Pale Jewelweed Flower

Pale Jewelweed Flower

This succulent plant is often found in moist soil, along streambeds, forest edges and roadsides. It is also often found near Poison Ivy – which is a good thing because Jewelweed is an antidote for Poison Ivy rash!

Just pick some leaves and stems, crush them up and rub the pulp on the exposed skin.

 

 

The next plant is useful to know so you can avoid it: Poison Ivy (Toxicodendron radicans, formerly Rhus toxicodendron). It is characterized by three waxy-leathery leaflets and a very ‘hairy’ vine stem. It has white flowers and berries and the leaves turn a beautiful red in autumn.

Poison Ivy seedling

Poison Ivy seedling

Poison Ivy Stem

Poison Ivy Stem

The winter-dormant roots and long-dead vines will still have the urushiol toxin, so it is good to know what they look like also. The roots tend to be orangish-yellow with many side rootlets.

If you rub against this plant, wash with cold water and LOTS of soap with scrubbing as soon as possible. If a rash develops, rub the rash with Jewelweed.

 

 

Lastly, Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) is a good friend to have around.

Put a poultice of yarrow leaves and flowers on a bruise to help it heal quicker.

Yarrow

Yarrow

And Yarrow leaves will stop bleeding from wounds like cuts, punctures and scrapes. You can dry the fine feathery leaves and carry them with you in an emergency first-aid kit.

When going out, know your friends.  Have fun and be safe.

Deb, Harry, bee balmNature enthusiasts Harry LeBlanc and Deb Vail are at home in the forest hiking to reach beautiful vistas and searching for native plants in the southern Appalachians. They are co-founders of Grandparents of the Forest, an intimate business offering simple yet meaningful ways for children and their parents to connect to Nature for well-being and healing. They also make Sacred Forest® Flower Essences from the plants they encounter. They are former organic farmers and parents of 5 grown children.

Organized under Harry, Medicinal. No comments.

Shared Meals from the Garden ~

July 26, 2016

Contributed by Deb

garden bountyOur garden was completely full last week and now, we have some vacant rows.  We’ve dug all the potatoes and garlic and the first planting of beans are finishing up, the second planting of beans are ready to begin harvesting ~ and now, it’s time to plant more for fall.  We can almost do a complete meal from the garden when we use squash, the first of the tomatoes, dill, cilantro, beets, cabbage, lettuce and tiny baby carrots. We also have some ‘alien-looking’ kolrabi that is about the right size to harvest.

Cabbage, Zucchini, Sungold cherry tomatoes, yellow 'wax' beans and coriander (Cilantro seed)

Cabbage, Zucchini, Sungold cherry tomatoes, yellow ‘wax’ beans and coriander (Cilantro seed)

Harry and I, of course, eat nearly every meal together.  Harvesting from the garden, cooking together and then eating meals together is one of our favorite things in the whole world. Everything tastes better and is fresher, of course, but the added touch of love and care that is shared gives extra nutrition for body and soul.  I often forget that the extra love and prayers that I can add to my cooking will be felt by those eating the meal!

We both had a tradition from our childhoods.  Sundays were special.  My grandparents came for dinner and would bring food from their garden or the farm roadside markets in my home state of Ohio. Mom would always have fresh pies in the summer – blueberry, strawberry, cherry, peach – even grape! (Yes, she peeled and pitted each grape!).  Harry always ate Sunday lunch and/or supper at one or the other of his grandparents homes.  Vegetables often came from the gardens, either fresh or frozen, and the meat was often raised and butchered by a relative.  His maternal Grandma often made a lemon meringue pie for his Dad.

Our children are scattered to the winds, but these traditions are still practiced by others:  one of our neighbor’s house is filled every Sunday afternoon with offspring and grandchildren.

Such simple things ~ and yet they can make a positive impact on us that lasts a lifetime.

Deb, Harry, bee balmNature enthusiasts Harry LeBlanc and Deb Vail are at home in the forest hiking to reach beautiful vistas and searching for native plants in the southern Appalachians. They are co-founders of Grandparents of the Forest, an intimate business offering simple yet meaningful ways for children and their parents to connect to Nature for well-being and healing. They also make Sacred Forest® Flower Essences from the plants they encounter. They are former organic farmers and parents of 5 grown children.

Organized under Deb, Uncategorized. No comments.

Peaceful Path

July 19, 2016

Contributed by Deb

I (Deb) was born in 1960 and grew up during a very unsettled time in the world.  I remember watching news of the assassinations of the Kennedys and Martin Luther King on our black and white TV with only two channels.  The nightly news repeatedly featured Vietnam, peace rallies in Washington DC and on my mom’s birthday, 4 May 1970,  the horrific massacre at Kent State University occurred.  My father required me to sit down and watch as Nixon resigned.  He said I would never live to see another event like it in my life.
Vietnam created an undercurrent of anxiety in our house. I had older draft-age brothers. One brother was college bound and my other brother drew draft number 8 and enlisted, only to have the draft abolished a few weeks after joining up.  As he left for his Marine basic training in NC, I sat under the dining room table with our collie crying and trembling. I didn’t know if I would ever see him again.
Nightmares started. I would often wake up and find myself in tears outside my parent’s bedroom door. One recurring dream haunted me.  Soldiers shooting the Vietcong would come alive as little miniature people and move around the edge of my bed, coming closer and closer.  I would wake up with a scream.
I doubt my parents understood the depth of fear that was in my heart.  Probably, were to read my account above, they would dismiss it.  I can assure you, it is etched deep in my heart.

I am concerned about the children growing up in our politically chaotic world these days.  The too-often repeated violence of terrorism and shootings make us all a bit on edge.  Children sense this and can take it on in ways that we can hardly imagine.

May I offer some suggestions?

P1080261Pay attention.  Is your child showing any signs of stress?  Has their sleeping pattern changed?  Are they more moody?  Do they cry more easily than usual or get upset about small things? Perhaps they are taking longer naps?

Your child may not, probably will not, be able to verbalize their stress to you but if you can keep in mind that the overlying stress of the world around them may be at the root of some of the changes in their behavior, you can begin to address it.

What can you do?

If you are seeing patterns of stress in your child, of course, you can talk to them about it.  Just naming the emotion they might be feeling may be able to lift some of the burden from them.  There’s no need to go into deep conversations with them.  After helping them to name their emotion, assure them it is a normal response and reassure them that you are there for them and that you are protecting them.  Your consistency of care will go a long way towards easing their distress.

Providing a ritual of protection may also be helpful.  You may want to use dried yerba santa and/or yarrow and sprinkle it around their bed while saying prayers of protection and peace.  Or perhaps have them carry some with them throughout their day, just a little bit in a pocket.  Rituals create a sense of comfort and provide a pattern in their life. It’s something they can come back to time and time again.  And these two herbs do help.  It may sound like ‘magic’  but these herbs have been shown to have a protective energy.

Red Clover SF 900x900I have also made a special flower essence blend called “Peaceful Path”.  It’s a combination of yarrow (for protection), red clover (for shock and trauma) and hawthorn (for healing of the heart).  This combination is helpful for both children and those of us adults who are feeling the stress of these times. You can purchase this blend here.  If you’d like a package of both the essence blend and one ounce each of dried yarrow and yerba santa, please go here.

I want to remind you dear parents, it’s crucial that you take care of yourself also, not just for your own sake but also for your child’s sake ~ so that you are able to support them.
We all process things differently and need different aids at different times.  Perhaps you need to talk things through with like-minded people so you have their support?  Perhaps you tend towards activism and need to rise up?  Perhaps you are more contemplative and need to go within?  Honor your differences and take your needs seriously.  Tend to your heart.

Dear friends, let us also remind you to return to Nature during this time.  Take a few extra minutes to observe the many miracles in our world.  Sit quietly someplace where the peace of Nature – the sights, sounds and smells – can calm, sooth and heal.  And remember, when you are looking at the sunset, clouds, sun or moon, you are deeply connected to everyone else noticing them as well.  We are bound together by this world we live in and we can find respite in her arms.

Much tenderness and love to you,
Deb (and Harry)
Your Grandparents of the Forest

Deb, Harry, bee balmNature enthusiasts Harry LeBlanc and Deb Vail are at home in the forest hiking to reach beautiful vistas and searching for native plants in the southern Appalachians. They are co-founders of Grandparents of the Forest, an intimate business offering simple yet meaningful ways for children and their parents to connect to Nature for well-being and healing. They also make Sacred Forest® Flower Essences from the plants they encounter. They are former organic farmers and parents of 5 grown children.

Organized under Deb, Medicinal. No comments.

Grow or Pick Your Own

June 27, 2016

Contributed by HarryHarry closeup glasses

Do you need something to do that is both fun and educational (and delicious)?

There is nothing better to teach an appreciation of the source of the food we eat, and the effort it takes to get that food to our table than a visit to a pick-your-own farm, berry patch or orchard.

P1110803We greatly miss the fresh blueberries we used to grow on our farm and have wanted to visit a blueberry farm down the road from us ever since we found out about it. We finally had the time and memory to go during blueberry season.

The berries were big and juicy and tasty. There were also plum, pear, peach and apple trees and currants – though only the currants were ready to harvest.P1110800

There were several varieties growing there. Some varieties ripen early, some later. This allows for a longer harvest and less fruit is likely to go un-harvested if it all ripens at once.

During your picking, ask the farmer how he or she takes care of the crop. Are the crops grown organically? How are the crops fertilized? How are they watered? Does she prune the plants? When and how? What varieties does she grow? Why? What special soil conditions do the crops need? What pests eat his crops and what does he do about it? (Our blueberry grower plays a loud series of bird alarm calls to keep several species of hungry birds away so people can eat them first! It seemed to be working since there were a lot of berries to pick.)P1110808

 

We also visited a local nursery. Not the kind with human babies; the kind with lots of plant babies. They had lots of tiny seedlings just starting and bigger plants ready to plant in a garden or put on a table.

You can learn how to start your own seeds, how to attract butterflies and more by talking to the people that own or work at a nursery.

There is SO much to learn from people who grow our food and help us grow our own food and make our home pretty.

 

Deb, Harry, bee balmNature enthusiasts Harry LeBlanc and Deb Vail are at home in the forest hiking to reach beautiful vistas and searching for native plants in the southern Appalachians. They are co-founders of Grandparents of the Forest, an intimate business offering simple yet meaningful ways for children and their parents to connect to Nature for well-being and healing. They also make Sacred Forest® Flower Essences from the plants they encounter. They are former organic farmers and parents of 5 grown children.

Organized under Gardening, Harry, Herbs, Spring, Summer. No comments.

Summertime!

June 6, 2016

Contributed by Deb

It’s June!

Schools are finishing and it will soon be officially Summer.  Graduations and weddings may be filling your calendar like they are ours.  Our youngest daughter is graduating from college next week!  We are thrilled to celebrate with her and to have reached our own milestone ~ all our children have safely made it to adulthood and are thriving and bursting with life.  We can’t say this has been an easy journey but it certainly has been fulfilling.

And… we remember summer vacation very well.  The children are excited, happy and full of energy.  Butterflies and lightening bugs seem to gather around them, don’t they?  How do you keep them busy and yet give them space to rest and to grow? How do you yourself have space to rest when you are now busier?

We’d like to share a few simple ideas with you ~

path by pastureAllow them access to the forests, fields and streams without any toys, instructions or classes.  Just let them explore, play and use their abundant imaginations.  Are you familiar with Jon Young, prominent outdoor leader and guide?  What’s the secret of his success with summer programs?  As soon as the children are dropped off, he and his fellow guides let the children run to the woods to play independently.  Of course, they are near by to watch out for the children’s safety and to answer questions but mostly, the children are encouraged to roam and play together ~ with sticks, in the mud, on tree roots… whatever they want.  They do games, rituals and storytelling at certain times but Jon says the bulk of the day is spent in independent play.

We wanted to take this chance to remind you that you don’t have to entertain or schedule your children every moment of every day.  They will thrive with space to go adventuring and exploring and they will learn more than you can even begin to imagine.

Look to Walt Whitman’s Poem, “There Was a Child Went Forth”, to show the transfer of wisdom and connection as children freely go about the world ~

THERE was a child went forth every day;
And the first object he look’d upon, that object he became;
And that object became part of him for the day, or a certain part of the day, or for many years, or stretching cycles of years.

The early lilacs became part of this child,
And grass, and white and red morning-glories, and white and red clover, and the song of the phoebe-bird,
And the Third-month lambs, and the sow’s pink-faint litter, and the mare’s foal, and the cow’s calf,
And the noisy brood of the barn-yard, or by the mire of the pond-side,
And the fish suspending themselves so curiously below there—and the beautiful curious liquid,
And the water-plants with their graceful flat heads—all became part of him.

The field-sprouts of Fourth-month and Fifth-month became part of him;
Winter-grain sprouts, and those of the light-yellow corn, and the esculent roots of the garden,
And the apple-trees cover’d with blossoms, and the fruit afterward, and wood-berries, and the commonest weeds by the road….

hayfield & mountainsAnd you, dear parent or grandparent, what of you?  Can you too go to the woods, lean your back against a tree and listen to the birds?  Can you take moments to just feel the breeze against your skin or to watch a sunset with your child?

If you need some assistance in slowing down, we’d like to introduce you to two green helpmates; oat straw and the flower essence of trout lily.

~ Oat straw can be made into a delicious infusion for whole family.  Buy it in bulk at your favorite health-food store and put one cup in a quart jar.  Pour boiling water to the top of the jar, cap it and let it sit for at least 4 hours or preferably overnight.  Of course, you can let it sit for a shorter time and it becomes a pleasing tea.  Drain off the infusion and drink it throughout the day or under the tulip poplar tree.  Oat straw is calming and as you drink her, you are changed.

Trout Lily SF 900x900~ Trout lily flower essence offers total peace.  She invites us to witness her harmonious state through the way she moves in the breeze, bows her head in humility while also being vibrant and bright. She is continually grounded in the earth with her strong spotted leaves.  When we take this essence, we are able to access this same balance and harmony.

Of course, we need not look to Jon Young, Walt Whitman, scientists or Grandparents of the Forest to ascribe to a certain way of being in Nature because deep inside of us there is a place that remembers the need and desire to surrender to the beautiful tactile experience of being in Nature.

We are here to remind you to open the door a little wider to this yearning in your heart ~

May the starlit skies guide your path ~
Deb and Harry
Your Grandparents of the Forest

Go here to purchase trout lily flower essence ~

Go here for a one time mentorship with Deb, Harry or both of them ~

Deb, Harry, bee balmNature enthusiasts Harry LeBlanc and Deb Vail are at home in the forest hiking to reach beautiful vistas and searching for native plants in the southern Appalachians. They are co-founders of Grandparents of the Forest, an intimate business offering simple yet meaningful ways for children and their parents to connect to Nature for well-being and healing. They also make Sacred Forest® Flower Essences from the plants they encounter. They are former organic farmers and parents of 5 grown children.

Organized under Deb, Medicinal, Summer. No comments.

Heart Fullness

May 23, 2016

Contributed by Deb

Dear Ones,

Deb&BachelorsI’ve been fairly silent lately.  Sometimes, I just need to ponder things before I find my voice and if I try to force myself to speak too early, things come out garbled.  Does that happen to you?

Last night, in the middle of the night, as often happens, I was thinking about you mothers and caretakers and reflecting back to the days when my young children needed so much from me.  Now that I am grieving for those days (yes, it’s a big adjustment having an empty house), I often wonder how I could have been more present for my children in the midst of the chaos of getting them to school (or homeschooling them), feeding and tending them as well as trying to keep some order in the house… and trying have some kind of a life outside of these family responsibilities.

At the time, I was practicing mindfulness meditation and doing qi gong daily. They were my touchstones and helped me stay attentive.  But now, standing back from it all a few feet (or should I say a few years) what I really needed were heart fullness practices.  I ask myself, how could I have kept my heart open more?

I had been thinking that much of the answer to this query is in slowing down but last night, in the dark of the night, I realized more fully that it’s not just in slowing down and seeing.  It’s not just in connecting.  And I certainly don’t think it’s possible to be ‘present’ constantly.  What came to me in the wee hours was a step beyond keeping my heart open to my children:  I remembered the importance of being openhearted – with myself.

Oh, that I could go back to those days fully loving myself.  I don’t mean loving myself like with a verb, as in self-care ~ having retreat time for myself or getting my nails done, or taking a bath every night ~ as wonderful as those things are.  I mean having a gentle, tender and accepting presence with everything I experienced and felt and did back then.

I remember the days of reading parenting books and trying so hard to be all things to my children.  And when I failed, I became my own drill sergeant.  I’d schedule more, I’d try harder, I’d lay awake at night running through my day and trying to reshape it so that I would be or had been a better mom.  Even slowing down would become a goal, a ‘should’ and then, of course, it could be something I could fail at.  I hardly ever held my own heart.  I was rarely kind to myself.

So I ask, are you able to hold yourself and all of your beautiful womanly emotional ups and downs with generosity of spirit?

Imagine yourself, as I did in the middle of the night, lying on the grass with your hand on your heart while children run around beside you playing tag.

Imagine a little heart drawn in the center of your hand and one on your child’s hands.  She’d stop playing every once in a while and touch hearts with you – hand to hand.  Nature is helping you to remember your preciousness.  The sun is shining through the maple leaves and there’s a warm breeze on your cheeks and somehow, you know as if never before, you are being held.  Feeling the tree roots underneath you ~ you feel a firmness and connection to the earth that helps you to remember you belong.  Nature’s beneficence surrounds you.

Solomon's Seal SF 900x900How might this good earth show you the way to self-mercy?  How might it teach you about being enough? Who amongst the flowers might show you the way to letting go of perfection?  Which tree might show the way of a strong heart – one formed in total acceptance of all that resides and lives inside of us?

I can only imagine how having my own inner peace might have affected my children when they were young.  Now, I am using spacious heart practices with the hope that my children can feel the difference across the miles in their adult lives.

You, dear parents and caretakers, can stand in this fertile place of loving kindness and let everything else go.
No need to do anything any differently.  Just remember, place your hand on your heart some times and look to the plants, rain, sun, moon and the seasons to show you the gentle way.

With much love,
Deb

~ In honor of the blessing of mercy from the Solomon’s seal who live on my forest floor ~

If you are interested in Deb’s mentorship program, please go here.

For more information about how Solomon’s Seal flower essence might assist you, read our description here.

Deb, Harry, bee balmNature enthusiasts Harry LeBlanc and Deb Vail are at home in the forest hiking to reach beautiful vistas and searching for native plants in the southern Appalachians. They are co-founders of Grandparents of the Forest, an intimate business offering simple yet meaningful ways for children and their parents to connect to Nature for well-being and healing. They also make Sacred Forest® Flower Essences from the plants they encounter. They are former organic farmers and parents of 5 grown children.

Organized under Deb, Medicinal. No comments.